Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My 1st Week

So after being at site for 1 week, what have I learned? That I spent more money on my lunch the other day, $2.50, than I pd the lady who does my laundry ($1). The harsh reality of it is that she probably won’t find any additional work for the day and she saves what she can to pay her daughter’s school fees. (one of her daughters is in the Compassion program and her fees are taken care of through that) I’ve watched 3 movies in 1 week and written zero letters and spent no time studying language (ok, so maybe an hour on language, but that’s like spending an hour a week training for a marathon!). Meaning…I’m starting early developing some bad habits and doing that ‘guy thing’ when i get home and trying to use only 5% of my brain while searching for an escape instead of working on some important stuff! My Peace Corps experience will be shared almost entirely with Jacob who has been assigned to work with an NGO in the same town. We’ve become fast friends and he’s already helped me with learning language (he’s got a mind for language like a steel trap!) and he’s a superb guitarist, so now that we both have guitars I’m going to use him like Payton Manning uses fake audibles. That is to say… a lot! Everyone knows Bruno! And there’s 2 that are around. The one that everyone knows, (seriously, people just come up to us and say, “Do you guys know Bruno?”) who is this super likeable French guy working nearby, and then there’s Bruno who is a near-midget who works at the Sky Blue Restaurant and Hotel. Bruno (#2) is awesome! He’s maybe in his early 20’s and he always greets us with a smile and he never asks for money (a rarity among the locals we’ve found). He has this “Chris Monroe” quality, and for those of you who don’t know Chris, he was this neighborhood kid who always came over to our house to play, was overly-super nice, even when we really didn’t give him the time of day because he was just always around and wouldn’t leave, but to be honest, was probably one of our better friends because he was always there if we didn’t have anyone else to play with. Through our interactions with Bruno, we’ve found out that he’s saving his money to take a trip to a local lake for a mini-vacation. Now get this, he works at this hotel/restaurant as a waiter from 7am till 10pm (now granted, they have very few guests that eat there), now he does get free room and board there, and by board I mean posho (corn meal) and beans, a common meal for peasants, and for his toils he makes $0.50 a day! That’s right, fifty cents! It’s not customary to tip in Uganda after a meal in case you’re wondering. So Jacob and I try to tip well on our volunteer salary (a clear oxy-moron). So we’re planning on taking Bruno (#2) to that lake and paying for his trip (which won’t be much $$). People love it when you greet them in their local language. Even if you don’t know much, to greet them makes them smile and laugh and seems to drop their guard and welcome you to their world. They go from staring (a common practice for Africans) to sharing in 7.2 seconds. I traveled 50km (32 miles) on probably the best road in Uganda to Rukungiri in a taxi to visit a PCV named Jenna and to get her bike from her, which she hadn’t ridden in the 2 years she’s been here. Riding a bike that hasn’t been ridden in 2 years is an adventure in itself. Problems are bound to occur. The bike is a small girls bike. I rode it the 50km back, in part because I’m cheap and in part for the adventure. Both tires were flat so I had to walk the bike a mile to a gas station. Along the way home the pedal worked its way lose and had to be tightened every km. I stopped 2x at bike mechanics. (there are several in every town because EVERYBODY rides a bike here, at least all the men do. Women don’t pedal them but they ride on the back) Only a few of the gears worked, which I didn’t know when I started. This area is called Little Switzerland because of the hills (think Sound of Music) and as I was biking faster than a speeding bullet down these hills I was PRAYING that this bike, which literally was covered with dust and cobwebs, would hold together. Biking through these towns as a white man would be like a clown on a circus ball going through your town. Everywhere I went I greeted people in the local language and they laughed and clapped. If I stopped a crowd would gather and they would ask where I’m from, why I’m here and where I’m going, shocked that I was riding so far. As I was passing through one town in which I didn’t stop I greeted people on the edge of town and before I reached the end of town I could hear them saying “He knows Runyankore!” It had reached the other end of town before I could even bike there! Amazing! Life in Uganda is difficult. People work very, very hard for very, very little. Some people do live ‘comfortably’, but very many struggle for work, food, and peace. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be. This is going to be a tough, tough thing and this week I’ve felt ‘down’ at times (see above for how many movies I’ve watched. One of my classic escapes…) but I’d rather be feeling ‘down’ here than working some dead end job back home! This peace corps thing is supposed to be this big adventure, but at times I forget I’m so far away because life is still life, the scenery and the people change, but it still turns into ‘your world’ if that even makes sense. My first attempt at cooking was a near catastrophe! I attempted to make chapattis (like tortillas) and it turned out more like burnt cauliflower. Thanks goes out to Nanette for her timely care package, which included ketchup that I doused over the concoction to make it somewhat edible. Men hold hands. All the time! They’re not homosexual, they’re just friends, and it’s the funniest, most awkward thing to see. They’ll even be 3 or 4 of them walking and holding hands. Purely friendly affection, but freaky strange to me! There are ‘white’ Africans!??!!! Not Americans or Europeans who live here, but Africans who don’t have any pigment in their skin or hair. They look like white people but they have African features, born of Africans! White skin, blonde hair (unless they’ve dyed it). It’s the freakiest thing and nearly impossible not to stare! You can tell in a moment if you see them. I’ve seen 2 so far but none in town. They typically have shorter life spans and they are called ‘Muzungu’ just like us other white folk! Google it and see what you come up with… I’m curious! That’s about it! Well, there’s a ton more but I’m sure this is enough for now. I just did finish my ‘Work Plan/Job Description” so I’ll include it at the bottom. Just a Thanks if you are actually reading this stuff! Please, please, please feel free to post a reply or shoot me an email. I’d love to hear thoughts, questions, stories, whatever. Email me if you’d prefer! Trust me, I’m not too busy here to read and reply to email! (and snail mail is even better!) Mom, Dad, Fam and Friends: Love you all, think of you often and miss you like crazy! Work Plan The following is a general work plan/job description for Brian Dunn, a Peace Corps Volunteer working with Ankole Diocese in Ntungamo town for the next 2 years (May ‘06 – May ‘08). The following plan includes generalized projects and goals but is not an exhaustive list. Inevitably, there may be additional work-project opportunities not yet foreseen. The first goal is to work directly with Compassion International (Child Development Center) and their staff at Kyamate. Areas of work will include teaching the OVCs (orphans and vulnerable children) about HIV/AIDS information and prevention techniques, general health and nutrition, physical fitness and personal hygiene. Home visits will be conducted on a quarterly basis to perform a needs assessment of the OVC’s caregivers and general living conditions as well as to address any specific needs they may have. Extra time is to be spent with those children who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in order to build positive relationships and to try to build higher self-esteem. The second goal is to work with Kyamate Secondary School in order to further develop their Drama/Music program. More specifically, to create programs to present to the community that deal with current health issues such as HIV/AIDS, sugar daddies/sugar mommies, malaria, etc. In conjunction with the dramas, videos will be shown when possible and discussion opportunities will be facilitated. In addition, assistance will be given towards education in subjects such as English, mathematics and science in after school tutoring programs. Also, the game Ultimate Frisbee will be introduced to Kyamate Secondary School and surrounding secondary schools to promote physical fitness, teamwork, and leadership with a tournament established and prizes awarded to the best team. Each meeting with the teams/schools will present education opportunities about HIV/AIDS. The ultimate goal of each of these programs is relevance and sustainability. Programs are kept relevant through feedback from community leaders, religious leaders, students, and community members. Sustainability is achieved through the involvement of community members to develop and organize events and programs. Future projects might include: Organizing a 10k running race or a 20k duathlon (run/bike) Developing lessons/drama programs for Kyamate Primary School on HIV/AIDS, health, nutrition, etc. Developing discussions/drama programs for the general community on HIV/AIDS, health, nutrition, etc. Grant writing for project funding

7 Comments:

At 31 May, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh Brian, this is the best post yet! It sounds like you ARE exactly where you are supposed to be. It's so good to hear you're getting settled (and that the ketchup came in handy!). I hate to hear that you get down, it's one of my biggest fears (should I get the opportunity to serve). Please please post what you would like in the next care package. I'm sending one this week (it will have to be "senders choice") and can send the next one as soon as you post your wish list. You are in my prayers everyday! Best wishes!
Nanette

 
At 31 May, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The white Africans have albinism. It is defined as "an inherited condition present at birth, characterized by a lack of pigment that normally gives color to the skin, hair and eyes." The condition, which is found in all races, may be accompanied by eye problems and may lead to skin cancer later in life. It is found in fewer than 5 people per 100,000 in the US and Europe. Other parts of the work have a much higher rate - 20 people per 100,000 in southern Nigeria.
Nanette

 
At 31 May, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, it was great getting your email back and reading this post. The whole time there sounds amazing and wonderful, and challenging (of course). I love what you said about how life is life there. I've realized that too -- people are people wherever you go. Can't wait to hear more about your happenings.

And I, too, would like to send you a care package! What can you use, what would you like???? Let me know and I'll send it down.

carnders@yahoo.com

 
At 01 June, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian,

Great Post! I really liked the part about Chris Monroe! - So True. I completely agree w/ your comment that life is life and people are people - So True. I feel in your post you are finding exactly what you sought out for. I know its difficult, but I know you are strong enough to handle it. You are one of the hardest workers I've ever known and I know you are gonna last for the entire two year period because of your strength and belief. Let me know what you would like in a care package. Take care and Stay Strong!

Your lil Bro,
Andy

 
At 02 June, 2006, Blogger borderst said...

You write such great descriptions of everyday life at your site. The hotel worker, the woman who cooks, riding that bike 32 miles. Keep writing...It helps me to picture what life is like for a neophyte PCV. Best wishes to you.

 
At 06 June, 2006, Anonymous Jennifer Noble said...

There is a Muzungu here in Shelby, NC. I saw him at Wal-Mart with his mom and brother.

Definitely your best post yet. Hands down.

 
At 08 June, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I have to agree with all of the other comments - definitely your best post yet! I found myself laughing out loud (at work, mind you). Your descriptions are so colorful that I can picture everything you write about. I truly think you should write a book of your experiences! So sorry I haven't sent any snail mail - I'm not so bad at that. I do want to send you a care package. Who knew you liked ketchup so much! You and Ella have a lot in common! She loves to dip things in ketchup and nacho cheese. I think she's worse than I am! Ella is still afraid of Andy. She is talking a lot and definitely knows what she wants and doesn't want. Melanie and Mom came over a few weeks ago with the boys and we went to Clay Terrace and let Ella and Charlie play in a fountain - while Henry slept. They had a ball! Your experiences sound so interesting - and so worthwhile. Try to keep your chin up - we all envy your spirit and tenacity (some of us also envy your height!).

Love ya,
Lil' Sis Jen

 

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